Physios are really just doctors to manage and prevent pain
Like doctors, physiotherapists are first contact practitioners. That means you don’t need a referral from anyone for a physio to examine, diagnose and treat your injuries. Physiotherapists can refer you to get scans but we don’t prescribe medicine. Physios are experts in back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, ankle pain, hip pain, neck pain, headaches, muscle pain, pains in the butt… you get the drift. But we don’t just treat pain; we also aim to prevent it.
Your physio has an expert understanding of anatomy and human biomechanics, with all physiotherapists holding at minimum a Bachelors degree in the science of rehabilitation and pain science. Obviously there are those physiotherapists who strive for excellence and complete weekend long or week long courses to become deeper experts in a certain area such as dry needling for example. A small percentage of the physio population even undertake courses that are years of dedication and further University degrees such a Graduate Certificate in Sports Physiotherapy or even a Masters of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy. When you think about it, physiotherapists are really pain doctors; we use the best evidence that science has to offer in hands on treatment and exercise based therapy to treat, manage and prevent your pain.
Should I see my GP or come straight to physio?
The Dee Why medical centre or general practice has historically been the first point of contact for most people when it comes to injuries and ailments. And with good reason; General practitioners are the best in their field. They have undergone gruelling additional study after their medical degree to garner in depth knowledge of a variety of fields. If you are feeling unwell, have a skin rash or are suffering stomach pains then the GP must be your first port of call.
I don’t give two shakes what colour your nose mucous is! Keep it away from me!
But if you have suffered an injury or if you have a chronic pain syndrome then not only is a physiotherapist your best bet, you will receive more up to date world class knowledge from your local Dee Why pain and sports injury expert – your physio!
When it comes to sports injuries, many GP’s refer appropriate patients directly to Sports Physiotherapists. On many occasions the GP refers patients to the Sports Physio with no formal diagnosis, leaving the expert diagnosis on us and to be done from scratch anyway. In the case of muscular or ligament injuries, quick and correct diagnosis and treatment of an injury plays a big part in injury layoff time and recurrence rates.
If you needed your tires replaced on your car, would you visit your mechanic or would you simply visit your local tyre shop and get them replaced? You wouldn’t waste your time visiting the mechanic who you already know would then tell you to visit the tyre shop!
Why physiotherapists are better at managing pain
Both doctors and physiotherapists possess the necessary skills to diagnose your injury. The make or break aspects of treating most musculoskeletal problems and chronic pain are the exercises and follow-up programs provided to patients after the initial diagnosis. In cases of acute neck pain, GP’s often take no immediate action, preferring to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach supported by pain relieving or anti-inflammatory medication. A general practitioner with their patients’ best interests at heart will refer the client to a physiotherapist, understanding the benefits of physio care which are;
- Manual therapy
Commonly called hands on treatment, manual therapy is exactly what you think it is. It uses no fancy machines, just the expert skill of your musculoskeletal physio’s hands. Most manual therapy programs focus on your symptoms, particularly pain, muscle flexibility/ trigger points and joint range of motion. It includes massage, dry needling and other forms of therapy (the names of which no one really cares about) such as muscle energy techniques and active release techniques.
While doctors may have the skill in diagnosis, they do not possess the specialised knowledge of functional exercise programs that is critical in achieving a multifaceted approach to pain management. This is our bread and butter. Exercise is often the key to recovering from many injuries, and your physio will prescribe the appropriate program for your rehabilitation. Physical exercises have been proven to improve not only pain but also strengthen and improve flexibility among patients with arthritis (or more correctly osteoarthritis).
Musculoskeletal physiotherapists promote education and self management. Your treatment doesn’t stop when you walk out of our door. Treatment is likely to include advice about movement, posture and finding ways of achieving your health goals. Your physiotherapist can also identify practical ways to help prevent the injury from recurring. Whether it involves making sure you have the correct equipment, the right shoes or correcting a movement or technique that caused your injury, your local Dee Why physio cares just as much about prevention.
Physiotherapists and GP’s work together
If you have an ongoing issue, your GP and physiotherapist will work together in order to ensure your treatment is flowing and effective. When it comes to chronic neck and back pain, many studies have shown that utilisation of only medication is not as effective at treating and preventing pain as multi-disciplinary approaches. Because physiotherapists cannot prescribe medication, run blood tests or give injections, if needed we will refer you to your GP to carry out any of those.
Physiotherapists and doctors are both professionals and experts in their given fields. A good general practitioner will be able to identify when a physiotherapist is needed and a good physiotherapist will know when medical management will further assist their patient. But just remember, if it’s muscular, tendon, ligament, nerve, joint or ongoing pain, a general practitioner will give general advice. Talk to your local expert – your musculoskeletal physiotherapist!